The digital age has taught us that everything is easier than it actually is, including self-publishing.
For instance, if you want to become an author, all you have to do is throw words on a page and upload your Word document to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. Voilà! You are now an author.
While technically true, there is a huge danger in thinking this way. It’s not as easy as it sounds. It certainly isn’t as easy as some people would have you believe. There are all sorts of dangers fraught with self-publishing e-books that you would do well to take heed to before you upload that document.
4 Dangers to Avoid When Self-Publishing Your E-book
Before you self-publish your non-fiction e-book, consider these four dangers and avoid them like the plague.
- Danger #1: The first danger is that your non-fiction e-book will suck. The simple solution is to do everything you can do to prevent your e-book from sucking, but the chances of you doing that on your own are slim to none. You need an editor.
Keep in mind that there are different levels of editing. The first level is simple proofreading. Your proofreader will go through your e-book and correct all the typos, spelling errors, and grammatical mistakes. But I recommend you do more than hire a proofreader. I recommend you choose someone who will also make suggestions for improving your manuscript from organizational/structural issues to content development.
Non-fiction authors especially can benefit from hiring a manuscript editor.
- Danger #2: The second thing that can go wrong is your e-book cover. If you can help it, don’t do it yourself. Hire a professional cover artist instead. People DO judge books, and e-books, by their covers, and if readers don’t like it, your e-book won’t sell.
- Danger #3: The third danger in self-publishing your e-book is that there will be no interest or market for it. This is a BIG problem for non-fiction authors. Have you asked around to see if anyone is interested in your topic? Are there other e-books published on the subject? If not, these are tell-tale signs that you may have chosen the wrong thing to write about.
- Danger #4: Finally, you need to pay careful attention to formatting. All the digital platforms for self-publishers have their own formatting requirements. Smashwords is very particular about certain things.
It’s also time consuming if you plan to upload your book to all the retailers directly. Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and others allow you to sell through a distributor as well as directly through their stores. You’ll make more money being your own distributor, but you’ll have to take the time out of your busy day to format and upload your e-book to each retailer. Have you counted the investment cost in time and money?
The 4 E-book Formats Every Author Should Know
The 4 must-know e-book formats for self-publishers are:
- PDF Books
Let’s discuss these one by one.
The PDF format is the oldest of the four formats. Created by Adobe in the early 1990s, the PDF format is a fixed format that is as ubiquitous as it gets. Anyone can read a PDF book on any device, however, because it is a fixed format document, it may not be the most desirable format for some devices. It is very hard to read on small handheld devices, for instance.
PDF stands for Portable Document Format.
Publishing to the PDF format does afford you some advantages, one of which is the ability to sell your e-book on your own website and distribute it more widely than you can do through online bookstores alone. However, there are some disadvantages, one of which being that you can’t sell a PDF on Amazon or some of the other book stores. I would not recommend publishing your books in the PDF file format alone.
The Kindle format is Amazon’s proprietary format. We can all thank Amazon for creating its Kindle e-reader. No other company is responsible for the rapid rise of e-book publishing, and it’s because of Amazon that so many authors have realized a successful run at self-publishing.
The biggest benefit to publishing in the Kindle format is that you can sell your book on Amazon, the largest online book store. However, not everyone is a fan of Amazon, so you’ll never sell your book to those people if you publish only for the Kindle format.
Kindle books are readable on any device, however, if you are not reading on a Kindle, then you must first download an app in order to read Kindle books. This makes Kindle e-books less desirable for people who are not technologically savvy and who do not own a Kindle.
A healthy alternative to the Kindle format is the ePub format. Any e-reader that isn’t a Kindle is compatible with the ePub format. Even Apple’s proprietary devices can read ePub documents. Readers who own a Kindle and want to read an ePub book, however, will have to download an app for it, which is why I recommend publishing in all available formats whenever possible.
Apple’s proprietary e-book format is called iBooks.
Just as I would not recommend publishing solely in any other format, I would not recommend that you publish only in the iBooks format. Nor would I recommend not considering it at all.
Apple readers can read ePub documents, and you might be tempted to rely on that. But I am learning that some Apple device owners prefer to read iBooks. Therefore, it would behoove independent authors to consider learning how to format your books for the iBooks Store.
If you want your e-books to receive the widest possible distribution, I highly recommend publishing them in all available formats. That means you will have to learn how to format your books for each reading device on the market. You can start with the PDF, the easiest to learn, and work your way down to the iBooks format.
Self-publishing is easy. Doing it right is hard. If you want to be successful at publishing e-books, then you need to invest a little money and treat it like a business. Hire the right team to help you publish a great product.
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